Black Habit Ale - Gastro Obscura

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Black Habit Ale

Benedictine monks in Oregon brew and serve this dark, heady beer.

The monks at Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary, nestled between Salem and Portland, Oregon, have another sacred duty beyond prayer: brewing. Their enterprise, called Benedictine Brewery, churns out a Belgian dark strong ale, made from hops grown on abbey land and water from the monks’ well. Brewers dubbed the beer Black Habit, labeling the bottle with a brief explanation: “Consithrsting of tunic, scapular, hood and cincture, a monk’s attire is called a habit. Among Benedictines, they are traditionally black, signifying the monk has died to this world. Whether over the body or in the bottle, the black habit reminds all of us of our higher purpose.” Fans say the thick, heady ale (which contains 7.8 percent alcohol by volume) tastes of malt sugars and yeasty spice, hardly a flavor profile that encourages feeling dead to the world.

Benedictine Brewery is a team effort. Everyone from advanced brewers to craft beer judges contributed advice and direction to the project since the walls went up in 2017. The local community helped construct the taproom and brewery at a community timber-raising using Douglas fir wood harvested from the abbey’s tree farm. Friar Martin Grassel, who started Mount Angel’s Seminary in 1995, manages the brewery. Along with the help of other monks, he brews, bottles, and tastes each heavenly batch.

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